Social media personality and drone FPV pilot Lexie Janson takes her talents to the next level.
By Jim Magill
Lexie Janson, a young social media star and competitor in the world of first-person view (FPV) drone races, is taking on a new challenge, becoming one of the first pilots training to race flying cars – first as unmanned vehicles, and later as a pilot aboard the aircraft itself.
Recently Janson joined Australia-based Airspeeder EXA Series, the world’s first racing league for electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) vehicles, otherwise known as flying cars.
“In August, I was contacted by Airspeeder and they asked me if I would like to jump on board with flying cars,” she said in an interview. “I checked out their web site and it turned out that at first we would be remote piloting those drones.”
Lexie and other pilots are training to be able to operate 250-kilogram (551-pound) eVTOL vehicles, manufactured by Sydney-based Alauda Aeronautics. The goal is to train drone pilots to operate as in-the-seat operators creating a league that would offer eVTOL vehicle racing, like “a Formula One of the sky,” Lexie said. “The moment they said that I would be getting inside, I thought, ‘This is a new level of what I was doing and I have to do it.’”
A native of Poland, Lexie started flying drones in 2014 and began piloting FPV drones the following year. “It had been a lot of fun to build something and actually make it work,” she said. “With FPV it was a whole different experience, because you put the goggles on and you’re literally immersed into the feeling of flying, while being safely on the ground.”
It wasn’t long before she moved on to competitive FPV drone racing. “That added some adrenaline to it. I could fly against other people,” she said. “That has been what I’ve been doing for the last seven years. It’s been a lot of fun. I got a lot of trophies, some titles and medals.”
Soon she moved to Germany, where she lived for about five years, to be closer to the drone racing action. “I just wanted a change. I needed to go to a place where I can go to all the racing events really quickly and Germany is kind of in the middle of Europe, so it’s a good place to start with, because you can literally drive everywhere: to Italy, Spain, France.”
More recently, Lexie relocated to Adelaide in Central Australia, to take part in training for the planned Airspeeder EXA competitions.
A typical day of training will involve working on a simulator as well as conducting test flights of actual drones. On days involving training with the Airspeeder vehicles themselves, Lexie and the other pilots-in-training need to get up at 4 a.m. and travel out to the desert where the test flights are conducted.
Social media personality
When she is not training with eVTOL vehicles or drones, Lexie is busy preparing content for her social media outlets, including her YouTube channel, MaiOnHigh, where she posts about her experiences as a young woman in the male-dominated fields of drone and eVTOL vehicle racing.
“I’m sharing the whole experience with drone racing, with what the events look like. I’m also teaching people how to fly FPV and sharing with them my love of drones and aviation,” Lexie said.
Although she supports herself through her social media appearances, as well as proceeds from her professional drone racing career, don’t call her an “social media influencer,” a term she distains.
“I would rather say I’m a public figure. I think that’s better, because I don’t like influencing other people,” she said.
Preparing for in-the-seat flying
Lexie anticipates that she and the other Airspeeder pilots will have to have completed all the training and secured all the necessary licenses from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority to able to begin flying the eVTOL vehicles as in-the-seat pilots sometime next year.
She said she is currently going through the licensing requirements in order to be certified to operate different weight classes of drones, as well as to remotely operate the Airspeeder eVTOL vehicle itself. Following that she will have to secure her license to operate the flying cars as an in-person pilot.
Under Australian aviation regulations, flying a drone by FPV goggles is currently prohibited. “It’s kind of like in a gray zone,” she said. “This is why we’ll be flying with screens instead of goggles in our races, for legal reasons.”
Other drone aviation rules in the country are similar to those of other nations, such as the U.S. “Mostly it’s just common sense: not flying over people, not flying in the city, trying to fly in places that are not a danger for anyone else,” Lexie said. “You have to have a spotter or a person who can see where the drone is if you cannot see it.”
As Airspeeder ramps up its EXA Series eVTOL racing program Lexi hopes to broaden her media outreach to young people, especially young women, interested in a future in drones and aviation.
“We’re going to be going international really soon,” she said of the EXA Series. “Also, Netflix is really interested in us. Of course, there will be other media sources that will be sharing our journeys and races,” she said.
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Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with almost a quarter-century of experience covering technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P Global Platts, Jim began writing about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, and the ways in which they’re contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to Forbes.com and his work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, a publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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